by Gabrielle Silva
With the passing of Civil Rights icons Representative John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian this past week, we are reminded of how incredibly important it is to recognize how the people and protests of the past continue to influence the pursuit of equal rights in the present. Particularly as we lose those who have experienced these historic events first-hand.
Both men fought hard for freedom and equality, starting at young ages and continuing into their final years. They both continued their activism in the Black Lives Matter Movement, speaking out in these last few months following the death of George Floyd. The many marches occurring now in the Bay Area and across the US are not new sights, but follow a long line of protests and marches particularly evident during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
By the start of the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement largely concentrated in the South had reached the San Francisco Bay Area, motivating sit-ins, marches, protests and rallies addressing social injustice and economic inequity. Segregation and discrimination against African Americans in F.W. Woolworth stores throughout the country prompted some of the first sit-ins in San Francisco in 1960. The killing of four young Black girls in a bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama sparked a march of 2,500 people in San Francisco in 1963. And on July 12, 1964, two events prompted the largest Civil Rights march in San Francisco to date: the potential nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater for President at the Republican National Convention, held at the Cow Palace in Daly City on July 13-16; and the placement of Proposition 14 on the 1964 November ballot in California.
Proposition 14, if passed, was to repeal the 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act which made it illegal for property owners and landlords to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or family status. It was an attempt to once again allow discrimination, claiming that no one, not even the State, could control a potential landlord’s or seller’s decision to decline applicants. Many felt this was unconstitutional and, according to Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown, would allow for “discrimination of which not even Mississippi or Alabama can boast.1”
The potential nomination of Barry Goldwater was disconcerting for those in both the Democratic and the Republican parties due to his racist rhetoric, beliefs, and past actions against civil rights. Handbills advertising the march on Sunday, July 12, 1964 stated its purpose, “To make known to the Republic Convention our rejection of Barry Goldwater, the anti-civil rights candidate who is the rallying center for Birchers, White Citizens’ Councils, KKK, and segregationists.2” It was organized by the U.C. Berkeley Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led by John Lewis, and was projected to be the largest nationwide civil rights demonstration since the 1963 March on Washington (at which John Lewis, then only 23-years-old, was a keynote speaker).
The march started about 1:30 pm at First and Market Streets and moved ten blocks up Market to McAllister, then to Polk Street, stopping in front of City Hall. Over 35,000 protesters were in attendance, the largest number San Francisco had seen up to that time, and all were peaceful from beginning to end.
Aside from John Lewis, others on the street that day included Civil Rights leader William Chester, known for forming a black caucus in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10; Hall of Fame baseball player Jackie Robinson, along with four of his distinguished, New York Republican friends; Rev. Hamilton T. Boswell, first chairman of the San Francisco Conference on Religion and Race and also the mentor to and campaign manager for Mayor Willie Brown; and James Farmer, co-founder of CORE.
Signs held by protesters read “Bury Goldwater,” “Goldwater ‘64, Bread and Water ‘65, Hot Water ‘66,” “Vote for Goldwater – Stamp out Peace!,” “I’d Rather Have the Scurry than Barry-Barry,” while others compared him to Hitler (“Goldwater for Fuhrer”).3 Some marchers carrying signs praising Goldwater wore pillowcases as Klu Klux Klan (KKK) hoods, although it’s unclear now whether these individuals were using satirical imagery to show the kind of people who did support Goldwater or actual white supremacists staging a counter protest.
The march concluded in front of City Hall, where the street in front was blocked off and a stage was set up for speakers. Here William Chester, the rally’s emcee, spoke, declaring that they were not against the GOP as a whole, but against Goldwater as a candidate. John Lewis asked the crowd, “Do we need a man who sets States’ rights above human rights?”
Many marches, sit-ins, picketing and rallying followed the Human Rights March of July 12, 1964 fighting Goldwater, Proposition 14, and the systemic racism that has carried us to the Black Lives Matter Movement today, more than 50 years later. And while the marches happening now may follow different paths than the march in July 1964, many continue to end in front of City Hall where rallies and speeches take place.
President Barack Obama, who gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to both John Lewis and C.T. Vivian for their monumental contributions in the fights for civil rights, said about Lewis that he will, “continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in America’s journey towards a more perfect union.4”
As we look back on historic events like the Human Rights March of July 1964 and watch the Black Lives Matter Movement unfold in July 2020, it’s clear that there’s still work left to be done. The example set by these marches and Civil Rights leaders like John Lewis continue to educate us and give us focused hope for the future.
1. “Brown Assails Prop 14 as ‘Cudgel of Bigotry’,” Los Angeles Times, October 8, 1964, p. 18.
2. “Anti-Goldwater March Today,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 12, 1964, pp. 1, 10.
3. “35,000 Join Anti-Goldwater March,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 1964, p. 5.
4. “My Statement on the Passing of Rep. John Lewis,” by Barack Obama, Medium, July 17, 2020.
A. “Civil Rights Legend Rep. John Lewis dead at 80,” by Suzanne Malveaux, Lauren Fox, Faith Karimi, and Brandon Griggs, CNN, July 18, 2020.
B. “The Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area,” The Bancroft Library.
C. “Mitt Romney, in marching for Black Lives Matter, was inspired by his father’s 1964 SF battle,” by Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2020.
D. “Civil Rights Icon Rev. C.T. Vivian dies at 95,” by Kelly McCleary, CNN, July 18, 2020.
E. “When Jackie Robinson Confronted a Trump-Like Candidate,” by Matthew Delmont, The Atlantic, March 19, 2016.
F. “William H. Chester,” by Peter Cole, BlackPast, August 5, 2011.
by Arnold Woods
Last week, we told you about the Haight Street Chutes, a water ride amusement park in the Haight-Ashbury district from 1895 to 1902. However, the closure of the Haight Street Chutes was not the end of the Chutes story in San Francisco. Far from it. Charles Ackerman, the attorney and impresario behind the Chutes here, knew they were losing their lease on Haight Street, so his Chutes Realty Company purchased some land in the Richmond District and begin building a new Chutes theme park. The new Chutes filled the entire city block bounded by Fulton and Cabrillo Streets, and 10th and 11th Avenues.
After the Haight Street location closed on March 16, 1902, the attractions were moved to the new Fulton Street location. The Fulton Street Chutes opened on May 1, 1902. For the grand opening, a new larger Chutes theater was advertised, this time seating 4000 people. The featured attraction at the opening was Colonel Edward Beaupre, aka the French Giant, who stood 7 feet, ten and a half inches tall.1 An estimated crowd of 12,000-15,000 showed for the opening day festivities.2
Within a few months, advertisements began mentioning that “motion” or “living” pictures would be shown at the Chutes theater. While not solely a movie theater, the Chutes Theater was the first theater in the Richmond District to show “moving pictures.” Hardy Downing and his “loop-the-loop” bicycle act signed on for a several month engagement that summer. All kinds of vaudeville acts continued to be booked into the theater.
The tower end of the Chutes was located on the Cabrillo side of the complex with a lake down at the Fulton end that was larger than at Haight Street. Once again, the Scenic Railway ride circled the property on upper and lower tracks. The Fulton Street Chutes billed itself as the largest pleasure resort in America. With streetcars down Fulton Street, getting to the Fulton Chutes was relatively easy despite the majority of the City’s population living on the Bay side of San Francisco. Once there, visitors were treated to spectacular views (when it wasn’t foggy) from the grand building at the top of the Chutes tower. At the time, there was little other development and certainly nothing as tall as the 70-foot high tower that could block sight lines.
Also making the trip from Haight to Fulton Streets were the animals of the Chutes Zoo. The main animal attraction was Wallace the Lion. At the new Fulton location, his cage was adorned with Greek columns. The new Zoo was constructed to be more sanitary and better ventilated. The fact that this was noted in the news reports of the day might be an indication that the zoo at the Haight Street Chutes was not pleasant for the nose. The new monkey pavilion was described as “palatial.” Later, a giant Galapagos Turtle, claimed to be 500 years old, was added.
The Fulton Chutes also continued with various forms of entertainment, such as shooting galleries, merry-go-round, roller skating rink, and a “Mystic Mirror Maze,” where there was a $5 reward for finding the “mysterious young lady.” There was also something called the “Infant Incubator,” where you could see a scientific demonstration of young babies being reared by artificial means. As with the Haight Street Chutes, Ackerman would continually add attractions to the Fulton Chutes to entice the public to visit. The most dazzling addition was the Circle Swing, which debuted on February 19, 1905. The Circle Swing loaded passengers into carriages attached to wires. The ride would then spin around and, as it picked up speed, the carriages would swing further out from the center.
To quote our illustrious Outside Lands podcasters, then something happened in 1906. The Fulton Chutes survived the April 18, 1906 earthquake in good condition as it was well-removed from the damage and fires happening on the east side of town. The Chutes closed during the relief efforts, but reopened on Sunday, May 20, 1906. A return to normal entertainment after a month of clean-up, rescue and resettlement in refugee camps resulted in heavy streetcar traffic to the Chutes.3 The Chutes also struck a deal for the Orpheum Theater to move its calendar of events to the Chutes Theater. The Orpheum would continue to operate out of the Chutes Theater through January 20, 1907.4
As one of few places of merriment available after the earthquake, the Fulton Chutes did well. Thousands of people were now living nearby in Golden Gate Park, Park Presidio, and other smaller parks in refugee camps. However, a “new” downtown area in the Fillmore district got built up in the wake of the earthquake, which included another smaller amusement park called the Coney Island Amusement Park. As the refugee camps came to a close and the Fillmore District rose, attendance at the Fulton Chutes began to wane.
On January 25, 1909, Charles Ackerman passed away after a long illness.5 His wife Carrie inherited his estate, but management of the Chutes were taken over by his son Irving. Even prior to Charles Ackerman’s death, Irving was looking for a new site for the Chutes because of the declining crowds.6 Within a few months, a new site was found and the Fulton Chutes would come to a close, although they kept the skating rink open and rented out the theater for events while the transition was made.7 In December 1909, the Chutes property was sold to a developer who planned to build two-story homes.8 Thus ended another chapter of the Chutes, but the Chutes story would continue.
1. Chutes Advertisement, San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 1902, p. 12.
2. “Old And Young Shoot The Chutes,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 1902, p. 14.
3. “Heavy Travel On All The Street-Car Lines: Thousands Sought Recreation in Suburbs and Other Thousands Came to the City,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 1906, Second Section, p. 1.
4. “Orpheum Shows Close At Chutes,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 1907, p. 12.
5. “C.L. Ackerman Called By Death,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 1909, p. 1.
6. “Want New Site For The Chutes,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 1909, p. 10.
7. “The Chutes Will Move Downtown,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 1909, p. 5.
8. “Sales Of Real Estate In San Francisco Show Marked Increase,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 4, 1909, p. 10.
by Arnold Woods
With summer upon us, thoughts turn to spending time in or on water, be it swimming pools, lakes, the Bay, or the ocean. 125 years ago though, fun on the water for San Franciscans meant heading to the Haight Street Chutes. The Chutes was an amusement park that included a water ride that may seem fairly tame now. Passengers were loaded on a boat at the top of a ramp, then the boat slid down the ramp into a small man-made lake.
The Chutes were created by Paul Boyton in Chicago in 1894, called Paul Boyton’s Water Chutes. A year later, he opened Sea Lion Park on the southwestern end of New York’s Long Island, which was a precursor to today’s Coney Island. Boyton started licensing his Chutes ride and San Francisco quickly got on board.
“Shoot the Chutes” opened on November 2, 1895. It was located on Haight Street, naturally, a couple of blocks east of Golden Gate Park, bounded by Haight, Cole, Waller, and Clayton Streets. This land was owned by the estate of John Baird, who had been the president of the California Powder Works, one of several dynamite factories in the Sunset District. Baird had died in 1880 and his estate was held in trust until his youngest child turned 21.1 Therefore, the trustees in August 1895 entered into a lease with the Paul Boyton Chute Company which, in turn, assigned the lease to the Market Street Railway Company, which was then owned by Southern Pacific.2
While Southern Pacific had the lease for the property, it was their attorney, Charles Ackerman, who owned and operated the “Shoot the Chutes.” At the time it opened, it was just the chutes ride and a food concession there. Opening day saw throngs of people packing the boats at the top of a tower to take the 300-foot long ride down to the pool below.3 The 70-foot high tower had two tracks with carts to take people to the top, where boats were being launched every fifteen seconds. When the boats hit the bottom of the chute, the front end often shot up and sometimes even flipped over. It was all considered the fun of the ride.
A merry-go-round was constructed at the Chutes fairly early on, but the following summer, Ackerman began adding other attractions. Most prominent was the construction of the Scenic Railway, an train ride around the perimeter of the grounds. The Scenic Railway had some attributes of a roller coaster with dips and climbs, but mostly was a nearly mile-long ride around the park on elevated and lower tracks that ended in an 800-foot tunnel that had a lighted diorama of foreign lands inside.4 For safety reasons, only one 6-passenger train was allowed on the track at a time.
There was also a large building known as the Casino built next to the Chutes tower in 1896. The Casino building held vaudeville performances and soon added a roller skating rink, an emerging fad then. On June 27, 1897, Atkinson opened a 3000-seat theatre in the Casino called, appropriately enough, the Chutes Theatre. The theatre continued to showcase vaudeville acts, but was able to handle bigger crowds.
As a further attraction, Ackerman created a zoo with a variety of animals, including, lions, bears, jaguars and leopards, kangaroos, wallabies, monkeys and orangutans, a tiger, an alligator, and a hyena. When one of the animals died, it suffered the sad fate of being stuffed and mounted in the Chutes Museum. It is unclear when the zoo opened, but advertisements for the Chutes began to mention the zoo in March 1898. Those advertisements were sure to note when the carnivores would be fed.
In August 1898, those advertisements began promoting a Camera Obscura at the Chutes. At the top of the Chutes tower, Ackerman had a Japanese-style structure built with a Camera Obscura in it. When passengers got to the top of the tower, they went through the structure and got a panoramic view of the area around the Chutes before the ride returned them to the bottom. In addition to these attractions, there was also a shooting gallery, a second, English-style merry-go-round where the horses went up and down, a maze, an arcade, a ball toss, and a photo studio. Special attractions like balloon ascensions were also held there.
Visiting hours at the Chutes extended from the early afternoon into the late evening. Although the Haight Street Chutes were a success, it was living on borrowed time. In 1901, John Baird’s youngest child turned 21 and Baird’s estate began to be liquidated and distributed to his heirs. This resulted in the end of the lease for the Haight Street Chutes property. Putting their best spin on the situation, the Chutes announced that they had outgrown the premises and needed to move.4 Closing day was March 16, 1902. This would not be the end of the Chutes story though. We’ll have the next chapter soon.
1. “Baird Estate Distributed,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 25, 1901, p. 14.
2. “Moves Of The Combine,” San Francisco Call, August 28, 1895, p. 5.
3. “They Shot The Chutes,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 3, 1895, p. 28.
4. “San Francisco’s Lost Landscapes,” by James R. Smith (2005 Word Dancer Press, p. 38.
5. “The Theater Programmes,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 1902, p. 21.
by Arnold Woods
In 1876, the nation was only a little over a decade removed from the Civil War that ripped apart the country. So with the centennial of our independence upon us, grand celebrations were planned with the hope of healing the divisions and bringing the country back together.1 In Philadelphia, the Centennial Exposition, the first World’s Fair in the United States, took place.
In San Francisco, then the largest city on the West Coast and one of the ten largest in the country, the centennial got an early start. On December 30, 1875, Mayor A.J. Bryant, named for President Andrew Jackson who was president when he was born, issued a proclamation that the New Year be rung in with five minutes of the fire bells to begin exactly at midnight. Mayor Bryant further suggested that church bells also be rung for 30 minutes. The Chronicle stated that Mayor Bryant did not want to lag behind the “Eastern Sister Cities.2
As July 4th approached, San Francisco prepared for a battle. Not a real one, of course. On July 3, 1876, the Presidio staged a mock battle to begin the City’s Independence Day festivities. First thing in the morning, throngs of people began arriving to set up shop on the hills around the Presidio grounds to watch the “battle.” Additionally, people found viewing spots from as far away as Telegraph and Russian Hill and numerous boats filled the waters around the Presidio. Estimates were that a crowd of 85,000 people watched.3
Before the “battle,” a review was held on the Parade Grounds. Marching in the review were, in order, the Third Regiment, the First Regiment, the Second Regiment, the Vallejo Rifles, the Oakland Guard, two Artillery Corps, and a Cavalry group. Brigadier General McComb of the California National Guard presided over the ensuing exercises and he watched over the review along with the Presidio’s commander, General Schofield, and California Governor William Irwin.
At 11:30 a.m., a naval bombardment from the various batteries ringing the Golden Gate began firing at a rock near Lime Point and a sacrificial fireboat. Shells were also fired from Alcatraz and Angel Islands and several naval vessels. To the dismay of spectators, the boat survived the barrage and a tugboat dispatched a man to set fire to it to remove the “disgrace.” The USS Pensacola fired a blank shell at the boat to make it appear as if its shelling caused the fire. Gusty winds were blamed for the poor markmanship.
After the naval bombardment, the “battle” paused for lunch. Some spectators left then because they had expected the battlefield exercise to occur before the bombing display and thought the event was over. However, after lunch, the regiments engaged in their mock battle across the Parade Grounds. Soldiers fired with blank shells at the crest of a small ridge. Batteries on the sides fired with a deafening roar. Horse troops were initially held in reserve, but when the batteries stopped, the cavalries engaged in a series of charges. As the images above show, the smoke on the battlefield made parts of the battle hard to see.
The following day marked the centennial of America’s independence. It started out similarly, with thousands of people pouring into one place to watch the festivities. This time, the place was Market, Kearny, and Montgomery Streets,4 as spectators found their spots for a huge, Independence Day parade. Crowds were so thick, the start of the parade had to be delayed in order for marchers to get there. Finally, however, the parade kicked off with some mounted police, a mounted bugle corps, and then the Grand Marshal, Supervisor D.A. MacDonald of the Twelfth Ward.
What followed was four miles of marchers that included Mexican War veterans, the National Guard, various local celebrities–called distinguished persons in the news reports of the day–other veterans, Society of California Pioneers members, Odd Fellows, and Native Americans–called Red Men in the news reports–followed up by a horse car representing Columbus landing in the West Indies. This horse car, dressed up to look like a boat landing with Columbus about to step ashore where a few Native Americans stood, would not go over well today. There were many more marchers after that, such as the Knights of Pythias, members of the Riggers’ and Stevedores’ Union, Post Office employees, the German, Irish, and Italian Societies, the Ancient Order of Hiberians, the Brewers’ Association, the Native Sons of the Golden West, a Swiss Philharmonic Band, the Portuguese Benevolent Association, and members of the Milkmen and Butchers’ Unions.
In total, it was estimated that 10,000 marchers paraded in front of 400,000 spectators. Views of the festivities were so in demand that shop windows and balconies were rented out along the route. The day ended with rockets, bonfires, and fireworks. Celebrations went long into the night. The last paragraph of the Chronicle story stated that the Independence Day merriment “[s]urpasses description, and will not likely be duplicated again for the next 100 years.” Parades over the next 100 years, such as the World War II victory parade, the San Francisco Giants arrival parade, and others, proved that statement to be a bit of hyperbole. Nonetheless, San Francisco’s commemoration of the centennial of our country’s independence was one of the grandest fetes in City history.
1. “The Unfinished Exhibition,” by Susanna W. Gold, Routledge Publishing, 2017, p. 39.
2. “The Mayor Recommends a Celebration Tonight,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 1875, p. 3.
3. “The Cannon’s Roar,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 4, 1876, p. 3.
4. “Gloria In Excelsis,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 1876, p. 1.